There is a flame that burns in virtually every man that speaks to their desire to fight for something bigger than themselves. For the American citizen, it is to look back with profound fondness and respect at our veterans of war and those who have died defending all we hold dear.
There is no higher thing we can do than to serve our fellow man in the military. This was not lost on the Knights of Columbus at the turn of the century when in 1900 in New York, they established the 4th Degree by exemplifying its first 1400 members. This was followed in 1903 with the Board of Directors officially approving the new degree centered around patriotism. The current version of the regalia worn by the Fourth Degree was established in 1940. It includes a chapeau with plume in various colors, cape, baldric, and a ceremonial sword all over the top of a black tuxedo. The uniform appearance represents some 75 years of tradition and clearly points in the form of symbolism to Catholic men fighting for something bigger than themselves.
The Fourth Degree KCs regalia is by nature a metaphor for the uniform that our Fraternal Catholic Order would wear in battle. It is true our battles, unlike past world, civil and revolutionary wars, is one that does not require us to draw the blood from or kill our enemy. We must, however, ask ourselves if the battle (considering our current fight to stop abortion) is no less bloodless? We fight contemporary culture and the reckless way it leads our youth. We join into the skirmish to keep Jesus in the public square. We struggle to move to the forefront in order that we might promote the values of our great Catholic faith. At the end of my 20 minute struggle to change into my outfit, is the sword that I attach to my baldric an anachronism? I think not. I remember attending Mass at the historic Church in 2003 with my wife and two small daughters as a non-Catholic. Father Siebenaler was led in procession by the Fourth Degree in full regalia. I mentioned to my wife that I was not sure where this Catholic thing was going to lead me, but I was sure it would not lead me to wear "that get-up".
Flash forward 14 years, and I am eight years a Catholic and five years a Fourth Degree Knight who has worn the "get-up" multiple times. The powers that be have determined that they will get more young men to join the Fourth Degree by changing the uniform. They may be correct. They actually look pretty cool. To me they look more like the peace corps than a fighting corps. Maybe that is what the Fourth Degree needs. Call me a romantic, but I have discovered a renewed fondness for the "get -up" that is in my closet as I write this article.